When I lived in Montana as a young(er)-adventuring-fly-fishing-outdoor-educator, I dreamed about the east coast fall I grew up knowing, where the leaves change a million different shades of yellow, orange, green and brown. This dream is real right now in Vermont, and as the magic ensues, I remember with heart pangs the autumn of Montana: super dry, sunny, yellow aspens and evergreen trees. It's the time of year I feel so so deeply in my feelings. How about you? In Traditional Chinese Medicine, nostalgia is regarded as the primary emotion of autumn. Back in Montana, I was nostalgic about the autumns I once knew out east. Now I can find myself nostalgic about those I've also once loved out west. It's not exactly one of those "grass is always greener" situations, really. It's just nostalgia.
It's the way I feel about the kids growing up, like when you notice they seem to have grown overnight....or their favorite t-shirt, unearthed from the bin of winter clothing, falls two inches above the waist of their sweatpants. I love the kids more every day, and feel nostalgic for the old days when they could fit in a ball-sized snuggle pile, together, on my lap. Nostalgic in the moment, not wanting it to be any different but aching for the love I once felt for a time, a place...even though my capacity for love and appreciation has enlarged with time.
It strikes me as a new thing, this depth of emotion, this capacity for the well to be so deep in this season. But it's not new, it's cyclical.
If you're with me in my statement of deep feeling that accompanies the autumn season, picture yourself as a sunflower, reaching toward the late summer sun with all your uprising might. And at this slightly past equinox point in the year, the sunflowers are heavy with seeds, their heads
nodding downward. Especially those big ones. They bend down, touching the earth. Is this not what's going on with us people as well? The expansiveness of summer has offered itself as a blessing upon us, which has now cycled into the season of letting go of the seed, of the ego, of the uprising energy that the bright sun invokes in us. Now we release the expansiveness of summer, drop our leaves and seeds, and come home to the cozy internal place inside our hearts. We picture roots extending from feet. I propose that roots begin in the heart. We nest, we tend, we bring our indoor plants inside the house. We begin the good work of resting and rooting ourselves in place. In order to do this, our hearts must be willing and accessible.
Here are some of my favorite ways to ease this transition of falling into the cooler times, the inward times, ways of supporting vulnerability in order that we may open our hearts to the deep change and cycle of season. (Business [busy-ness] as usual is a good one to throw out the window at this point.):
1) Drink Nervine Tea every day: I believe it is an injustice that hospitals do not offer nervine tea in IV form to every patient in distress. Kidding-not kidding. What are nervines? These plants bring a sense of calm, nourishment, muscular relaxation, and tension ease to the nervous system while tonifying it over time. Some herbs classified as nervines are found to have an immediate uplifting and relaxing effect, or sedating and relaxing effect. Others, like Milky Oats, actually rebuild the myelin sheaths surrounding the nerve columns, enabling nervous system messages to be sent and received with more ease and efficiency. One fabulous recipe is: equal parts Lemonbalm, Chamomile & Milky Oats, a deeply nourishing and delicious daily herbal tea blend for the nervous system. Order bulk and mix your own daily blend from Zack Woods Herb Farm, or find a beautiful blend of Nervine Tea from Wise Woman Herbals. I love that both of these herbal companies are committed to the United Plant Savers ethics and know that the plants used here are never harvested with disregard to the whole ecological picture.
2) Take Digestive Bitters: I admit, I LOVE the bitters formula I make. I crave the taste, and worship the plants and their grounding effect. I am literally redirected to notice my feet standing on the earth when I take bitters. You can order them here. You only need a couple of drops, which makes them super affordable because they last for a long long time. You can also make your own: Equal parts dandelion root, burdock root, yellow dock root, ginger & cardamom, chopped and diced, cover with organic apple cider vinegar and steeped for 3-4 weeks. Shake and pray every day as it steeps. Strain after the time period, and enjoy 5 drops on the tongue three times a day before meals to prepare the gastro-intestinal system for digestive delight.
3) Eat Roots, Squash and Pumpkins: This recipe for Butternut Squash and Yam Curry actually gets me - a summer/ocean/bare feet lover- in an upbeat mood for the layers of wool and winter boots to come. Bring deeply nourishing roots and squash into your meal planning this time of year and warm up the home while they aromathera-pize it with their sweet baking prowess.
4) Have Weekly (read : daily) Foot Baths: This is massively easy. Hard part = making the time instead of making excuses. Brew a couple handfuls of calendula flowers and echinacea root, flower and leaf in two quarts of water, covered. Pour it into a dish pan and submerge
the tootsies for 15-20 minutes. Feel free to cool the foot bath down with cool water, to warm it up with a pot of hot water nearby as you go, or to add epsom salts to the bath for improved lymphatic movement. All you really need is a simple dish pan, a towel and to sit with something else that relaxes you (music, book, kitty on lap). Indulge in the simple, important work of caring for yourself.
5) Take Baths infused with Antibacterial & Nervine Teas: Steep a simple tea of lavender and sage on the stove. For this, a handful of lavender flowers or leaves and sage leaves per quart of tea is perfect. Once it's steeped for twenty minutes, pour it into your bath and soak in it. Epsom salts are always welcome!
6) Trade massage with folks you love using Vata Reducing Abyangha Oil: In Autumn, the cold, dry winds and temperatures arrive, quickening our step and, let's face it, beautifying the landscape beyond belief for a couple of weeks - but then turning it completely brown before turning it completely white. (I digress.) The practice of abhyanga massage is as easy as rubbing oil all over your body after a hot shower. This practice provides the body with the forces it lacks in order to arrive at neutral and balance again. One oil I've come to love during this time of entering the cool weather includes real herbs steeped in real oil, while warmed. My favorite herbs for this oil include: ginger, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, anise seed, cloves, star anise...basically we're talking a couple tea bags full of chai without the black tea. Steep in a warmed oil - Organic Jojoba Oil is a delight to the skin and absorbs quite quickly. I keep a small, strained jar of this warming (vata-reducing) oil next to the shower and oil up while chanting something loving to myself, even when I have to fake it 'til I make it, like "good body, good body, good body, good!" If you're sitting down after dinner relaxing, even just a five minute foot massage with this warming oil followed by super cozy socks makes a world of love and care available to each one of us! And to one another. If you are caring for another in this way, always make sure there is a reciprocation plan or that you care for yourself first!
I wish for you the best in this time of nostalgia, deep beauty and incredible change. May your heart be safely open and held in care.
All my love,